The University for Industry pilot project in Sunderland has failed to make the hoped-for breakthrough in training for small firms, a study has found, writes Jon Slater.
Researchers at Warwick University discovered that under a third of local small firms who took part in a telephone survey had heard of the UFI. The report recommends a greater focus upon training needs.
"Publicity associated with the project has tended to run ahead of its operational success," it says.
The pilot is run jointly by the Institute of Public Policy Research (IPPR) and Sunderland University. Nick Pearce, head of education at IPPR, points to two key challenges for colleges involved in the UFI. "Colleges need to make a reality of roll-on roll-off provision and they need to provide on-line learning on demand," he said. "That flexibility isn't always there."
An Evaluation of Aspects of the University for Industry in the North-east was commissioned by ministers. Its findings are based on interviews with individual learners as well as observation at learning centres and the telephone survey.
The report praises the innovative taster materials used to encourage people to learn. But it says: "More attention has been given to 'hooking' UFI registrants ... than to tracking learners or the need to progress them through high-quality learning programmes."